Rings served a variety of functions in antiquity. Probably the earliest use of rings was as a form of identification, the owner's individualized engraving impressed onto wet clay or wax. These signet rings played an important role in ancient life. Not only were they equivalent to the owner's signature, but also often they played the role of lock and key. Therefore, the dangers of forgery were not overlooked. In fact, as early as the 6th century B.C. a law was passed forbidding the ring engraver to keep an impression of the engraved design once a ring was sold. The individualized designs on rings took a variety of forms. In the roman world, Julius Caesar used an armed Venus, Augustus first sealed with the design of a sphinx, then with a portrait of Alexander the great, and finally with his own portrait. Rings also functioned as ornament, for the engraved designs depicted on the rings were clearly works of art in their own right. In this stunning example we see a bronze signet ring with the engraved stylized rendering of a winged lion. With jaws open wide, this mighty symbol of imperial power and strength radiates an energy that befits its noble character. Above the wing and tail we see the carved images of a crescent moon and star, celestial representations that place this supreme feline amongst the ancient heavenly gods. As we experience the dynamic beauty of this ring we become witness to the creative imagination of the ancient roman metalworkers, artists whose legacy is the closed circle, the ancient symbol of continuity.